The best DSLR cameras are still in high demand among photographers, despite the increasing popularity of mirrorless models. These digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras have several advantages, and one notable feature is their ability to use interchangeable lenses with the same camera body, which is not possible with digital compact cameras. This flexibility and versatility make them a preferred choice for many photography enthusiasts.
While DSLRs are usually bigger and heavier than other camera types, the best DSLRs aren't obnoxious or clunky like they used to be. The debate of DSLR cameras v mirrorless cameras is a contentious one, and there's no right or wrong answer, but some photographers prefer the more substantial feel of a DSLR in their hand. In fact, some of the best DSLR cameras feature in our Best cameras for astrophotography guide.
In this guide, we round up the best DSLR cameras, but if you're looking to get your first camera, or even grab a bargain, then you can also check out our best beginner cameras and best camera deals guides. Naturally though, as skywatchers and astrophotographers, we love DSLR cameras.
If you wish to check out the competition, then we also have a round-up of the best mirrorless cameras. Fear not, if you're a little unsure if these cameras are for you as we also have a useful 'Should you buy a DSLR' article that might answer some questions you have. We also have reviews for all but one of the cameras in this guide and have a 'what to look for' section towards the bottom for a more detailed look and understanding of what's on show.
The quick list
An absolute powerhouse of a DSLR that outperforms many modern mirrorless cameras.
Best for professionals
Best for professionals
Ideal for enthusiasts and pro photographers seeking an all-rounder that handles well.
Best for low light
Best for low light
Equally good at video, this beast is perfect for astrophotography but also excels at capturing fast action.
Best crop sensor DSLR
Best crop sensor DSLR
The 90D shoots fast and with exquisite detail, perfect for sports, action or close-up lunar views.
Best introduction to full frame
Best introduction to full frame
A solid camera that feels nice in the hand and boasts good weathering sealing for use in inclement weather.
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Best lightweight option
Best lightweight option
A high-quality APS-C image sensor and small form factor make this an ideal camera for beginners.
Best DSLR cameras 2023
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✅ You want a camera that can do anything: We thought this camera can do literally anything in any type of location, so if you want the best DSLR — here it is.
❌ You're not a pro: If you're an enthusiast with deep pockets then sure, buy it, but it's likely going to be too expensive and overkill for beginners or casual photographers.
🔎 Nikon D850 Just about the best DSLR for professional use without paying through the nose for the D6, the Nikon D850 produces high-resolution still photographs and records full-frame 4K video at 30p. Paired with high-quality lenses, it’ll give outstanding clarity to photographs. ★★★★★
The D850 is considered one of the greatest DSLR cameras ever made, alongside other professional-grade and expensive models like the Nikon D6. It was first released in 2017 and can capture stunning 45.7-megapixel still photos at a rapid speed of up to 9 frames per second (when used with a dedicated battery grip; without it, the speed is 7FPS). While it may have a slightly slower buffering speed compared to other models, it's essential to note that this camera can produce massive and high-quality image files due to its impressive 9FPS and 45.7MP capabilities.
Despite being an expensive camera, the D850 is worth considering if you frequently switch between taking photos and shooting videos because it also supports 4K UHD and beautiful 8K time-lapse videos.
There isn't a specific style of photography that this camera lends itself to more than others because, to put it simply, it can do anything. We reviewed the Nikon D850 and loved the astrophotography-friendly features such as backlit buttons, excellent low light autofocus and good ISO noise handling capabilities. It's also compatible with practically every F-mount lens, so there is a large selection of lenses to choose from to meet your needs.
The Nikon D850 is a camera you can take everywhere, for any occasion, and get the best results without worrying about the weather or dust since it is extensively weather-sealed; even the battery grip is protected from dust and water ingress. It would be happy in any of the best locations for astrophotography and skywatching.
- Read our Nikon D850 review
|Performance||Insane stills resolution & blisteringly fast autofocus|
|Functionality||Can do anything, anywhere|
Best for professionals
✅ You're a pro wanting a second camera: For full-time pros looking for a second or back-up camera that can produce stunning results, this is a great model to consider.
❌ You want a camera that's futureproof: While this remains a fantastic camera, manufacturers are now focusing more on improving mirrorless technology, so if you want a camera you can grow with and will last longer, consider a mirrorless option.
❌ You're a beginner: This camera is aimed at pros and enthusiasts, so if you're just starting out with photography you'll want to opt for something cheaper and simpler.
🔎 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV While it may leave a dent in the wallet, the Canon 5D Mark IV — with its addition of Wi-Fi, GPS and touchscreen features — is ideal for enthusiasts and pro photographers seeking an all-rounder that handles well. ★★★★½
Even though it's been around for over five years, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV remains highly popular among professional photographers. It's often praised for its exceptional durability and adaptability, earning it the nickname "workhorse." The camera stands out not only for its excellent image quality with its 30.4-megapixel still photos but also for its ability to capture cinematic movie-quality 4K DCI video. For these reasons, we think it's a must-have camera.
Although we wish it had a tilting screen, the big, detailed rear screen matches the bright optical viewfinder, and accessories can be connected through USB 3.0, HDMI out, and headphone outputs. It also has a microphone input, a flash connection connector, Wi-Fi and NFC technology to enable wireless shooting and simple image sharing.
In our Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review, we surmised that, although on the pricey side, it is ideal for enthusiasts and pro photographers seeking an all-rounder that handles well.
- Read our Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review
|Design||Big and heavy|
|Performance||Excellent performance in low light|
|Functionality||Not a camera for videographers|
Best for low light
✅ You do a lot of astro: This camera is a low light master with a remarkable ISO range and specific low light capabilities.
❌ You're a full-time pro wanting the latest tech: With the advancement of technology over the past few years, full-time professional photographers would likely want to opt for a newer model with better capabilities. It would make a great second camera, though.
❌ You're a beginner: While not quite advanced enough anymore for the pros, it's still overkill for beginners.
🔎 Nikon D780 Fantastic dynamic range, excellent signal-to-noise ratio in the high ISO range and intuitive and comfortable controls make this a fabulous camera to use in the dark and it performs well across multiple disciplines, not just for astro. ★★★★½
Another great Nikon camera here is the D780. It's an upgrade from the already impressive Nikon D750 and is designed for professional photographers and serious enthusiasts with a reasonable budget. The D780 has enhanced features compared to its predecessor. It includes a highly detailed rear screen with a massive 2359K dots and an impressive maximum burst speed of 12 frames per second, packed in a relatively compact size for a DSLR.
This camera is perfect for wildlife, sports and action photography because of its capabilities. It can shoot 4K UHD 30p video with 10-bit N-log recording and offers an impressive 12 stops of dynamic range. Additionally, it can shoot at 120 frames per second, which is great for capturing stunning slow-motion footage at a five times slower speed. If you're looking for a versatile and high-performance DSLR, the Nikon D780 is an excellent companion.
As well as an admirable burst speed, the D780 is also a low-light master, and we put it to the test in our comprehensive Nikon D780 review. The noise reduction algorithms are faultless at keeping the images clean, and the ISO range can be extended to a remarkable 204,800. Also, the camera's low-light-specific abilities can decrease the AF range by as much as -7EV when live view is on.
This camera is especially useful for astrophotography, but is an excellent performer across all disciplines.
- Read our Nikon D780 review
|Design||Lightweight but feels substantial in the hand|
|Performance||Superb high ISO range and noise handling|
|Functionality||Optical viewfinder great for traditionalists|
Best crop sensor DSLR
✅ You want more detail: This camera has a 32.5MP APS-C sensor which produces stunningly detailed images — previously the highest resolution of a crop sensor camera.
❌ You want to shoot slow-motion movies: While it does have this capability, be aware that continuous autofocus doesn't work in this mode, so anyone serious about videography would quickly get frustrated.
🔎 Canon EOS 90D: A powerhouse of a camera aimed at enthusiasts. It produces stunning all-round stills and video and is great for shooting close-up views of the moon with its incredibly detailed sensor. ★★★★½
Crop sensor DSLRs benefit from the perceived extra zoom afforded by the 1.5/1.6x effective crop. That's precisely where Canon excels with this powerhouse of a camera, which is aimed at enthusiasts. The longer effective focal length and quick 10FPS burst speed are complemented by the enormous 32.5MP CMOS image sensor, which was previously the highest resolution of any APS-C camera.
While having 4K DCI would be nice, the camera does fine with 4K UHD, which is more than enough for most users. It comes with an EOS iTR focus tracking system powered by a 220,000 RGB and IR metering sensor. This feature helps you keep moving subjects in focus, even if you're moving the camera around. If you want to shoot slow-motion movies, you can do so at 120FPS, but remember that continuous autofocus won't be available in this mode.
The 90D has Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system, so autofocus won't be compromised even while in live view mode, much like a mirrorless camera.
The camera feels chunky and robust, with lots of space to comfortably grip and change settings simultaneously. We would like to have two memory card slots; there is certainly enough for one more, and it would provide us more assurance during a shoot, but we can't have everything.
- Inspired? Check out the best used DSLR cameras
|Design||Chunky and robust to the touch|
|Performance||Enormous 32.5MP sensor produces stunning images|
|Functionality||Would like two memory card slots|
Best introduction to full frame
✅ It's your first full frame: It's no secret that full frame cameras are more expensive, and this camera would make a great introduction to full frame systems.
❌ You want to shoot fast action: The maximum burst rate is 6.5fps which isn't enough for shooting anything that moves fast.
❌ You shoot video: While it's fine if you want to learn videography as a skill, it doesn't shoot in 4K, so you'll very quickly outgrow it.
🔎 Canon EOS 6D Mark II This is a great choice if you're looking for a reliable all-rounder and a good introduction to full-frame. It's good at most things, great for stationary or slow-moving subjects such as landscapes or portraits, but not so great for capturing fast action. However you can find similar specs elsewhere at a lower cost. ★★★★½
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a benchmark DSLR for Canon. It can produce close-up photos of outstanding quality and sits comfortably between more expensive professional models and less expensive entry-level ones.
Photographers who like to push the limits of entry-level models can take advantage of the built-in weather and dust sealing features and benefit from slightly improved but not outstanding burst shoot speeds of up to 6.5FPS.
In our Canon EOS 6D Mark II review, we found it nicely ergonomic with a good hand grip, easy-to-use round buttons, dials and thumbwheels, and the body has well-rounded edges for comfort. The vari-angle touch screen is great for composing shots at awkward angles and feels less intrusive when trying to capture candid photos. Photographers of all skill levels will appreciate the clarity and detail the images produce, especially in low-light circumstances.
When you're shooting video, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF makes it simple to change the focus, and the camera has a five-axis digital image stabilization feature to assist with handheld shooting. The only notable drawback in this otherwise fantastic intermediate-level camera is that the maximum video resolution is limited to 1080p at 60 frames per second. However, it's worth noting that the camera's 26.2-megapixel image resolution still allows you to capture impressive 4K time-lapses.
- Read our Canon EOS 6D Mark II review
|Design||Body feels a bit clunky and plasticky|
|Performance||Good low light performance|
|Functionality||Autufocus not as good as competitors|
Best affordable crop sensor
✅ You want to push your skills: This is a great camera for improving your photography skills, especially if you don't want to venture into the realm of full frame where lenses are more expensive.
❌ You want high resolution: The 209.MP sensor doesn't produce particularly detailed stills, so if that's what you want you'll want to opt for something with more megapixels.
🔎 Nikon D7500: It feels and handles much like the full-frame Nikon bodies and only shrinks back on build quality where it has to. Overall, it's a well put together crop sensor body with sturdy construction and is comfortable to use for both beginners and those wanting to push their photography. ★★★★½
The D7500 is Nikon's top-tier DX (crop sensor) camera, perfect for photographers looking to improve their skills. It has a large 3.2-inch rear-tilting LCD, which is very handy for shooting at awkward angles, especially in astrophotography. The LCD is touchscreen-enabled, making composing and capturing shots with minimal clicks effortless.
The 8FPS maximum burst speed makes it suitable for some sports and wildlife photography, while the 20.9MP CMOS image sensor is more than enough to record 4K UHD video. Due to its complete weather sealing, which keeps dust and water out, this camera is protected from the elements.
In our Nikon D7500 review, we liked the button layout, which we thought felt professional and made good use of the space available on the camera body. The large touch screen's responsiveness and ease of use also wowed us, as did the high ISO handling.
- Read our Nikon D7500 review
|Design||Solid grip, feels like a professional camera|
|Performance||Low stills resolution|
|Functionality||Wide ISO sensitivity range|
Best lightweight option
✅ You travel a lot: This is the world's lightest DSLR camera (1 lb/459g), so it's ideal for traveling with when you don't want to lug heavy gear around.
❌ You shoot sports or wildlife: The maximum burst rate of 5fps just isn't enough for the fast-paced shooting required for sports and wildlife photography.
❌ You're not a beginner: Anyone wanting to advance their photography above beginner level will want to opt for something a bit more powerful.
🔎 Canon EOS Rebel SL3/ Canon EOS 250D: Day-to-day, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is a remarkably easy-to-use camera that doesn't disappoint when it comes to image quality. Decent stills resolution and 4K video make it suited for photography newcomers who want to shoot a bit of everything. ★★★★
Among the more budget-friendly entry-level crop sensor cameras, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D is the top choice. Its 24.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 image processor produce vibrant and noise-free images. Although the viewfinder offers only nine autofocus points, you can increase this number to 143 by using the live view function on the rear vari-angle touchscreen, which the camera can automatically select.
With a maximum expanded ISO sensitivity of 51,200 and an autofocus working range of -4EV, this Canon is a useful low-light camera, especially when paired with a lens with built-in image stabilization. We were pleasantly surprised when we used it for some very basic astrophotography.
In our Canon Rebel SL3/250D review, our verdict was that it is an excellent easy-to-use camera that is compact and durable and would be best suited to beginners who want to shoot various styles.
- Read our Canon EOS Rebel SL3/EOS 250D review
|Design||World's lightest DSLR|
|Performance||Good stills and video resolution|
|Functionality||Average maximum burst speed|
Best for beginners
✅ You don't need the latest tech: For beginners or anyone who doesn't need all the latest tech bells and whistles, this is a decent option that produces nice results.
✅ You want something simple to travel with: It's small and lightweight so would make a great choice if you want to keep it in your bag for snapping photos on your travels.
❌ You want to grow with it: This camera is designed with beginners in mind, and as tech improves over time, this camera is going to feel older and older as time goes on.
❌ You're above beginner level: We noted that it wasn't great for learning videography, it has patchy autofocus and generally was only good for absolute beginners.
🔎 Nikon D3500: The D3500 is a good camera, even though many of its features have been surpassed now by improved technology. But for the price, it produces nice results. ★★★½
The D3500 is Nikon's most affordable DSLR, designed for beginners. Despite being budget-friendly, it doesn't compromise on quality. It features a sturdy and comfortable grip that gives it a professional look and feel. The camera is small, lightweight and easy to handle. Its APS-C CMOS sensor can produce impressive 24.2-megapixel still images, which is remarkable for an entry-level camera like this.
In our Nikon D3500 review, our verdict was that although it lacks features found higher up in the range, it's hard to argue with for the price you pay.
While movie recording is limited to Full HD at 60FPS, the dynamic range is good and the rear 3-inch LCD is clear and bright with 921K dots providing ample detail. Anyone new to photography should have no trouble taking amazing, sharp pictures when paired with one of the many DX zoom lenses, especially one with Vibration Reduction.
- Read our Nikon D3500 review
|Design||Small and lightweight, but buttons can be fiddly|
|Functionality||No touch screen, excellent battery life|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a DSLR camera?
What does DSLR mean or stand for?
A DSLR, or Digital Single-Lens Reflex, is a camera that captures light through the lens, bounces light up through the body with a mirror and refracts it into the optical viewfinder via a prism. It has a digital image sensor, usually a CMOS sensor, to record scenes as digital information on a memory card or computer.
What is the best DSLR camera in the world?
The Nikon D850 is currently the best DSLR in the world and it's unlikely to change with DSLR lines being discontinued by many camera manufacturers. This is based on myriad reviews, extensive testing and in-depth knowledge of using digital cameras. It scored full marks (five out of five stars) in our full review and we were particularly impressed with the fantastic stills resolution, blisteringly fast autofocus and workhorse-like build.
What's the difference between APS-C and full-frame cameras?
Full-frame cameras have an image sensor that match the 35mm size of traditional film cameras. APS-C image sensors are crop sensors which are smaller than full-frame cameras. How much smaller depends on the make and model of the camera being used, but usually full-frame sensors are 50% bigger (or 1.5x).
This directly affects perceived focal length. So a 50mm lens on a full-frame body would give an perceived equivalent of 75mm on an APS-C crop sensor DSLR because 50 x 1.5 = 75. It doesn't physically change the lens attached but rather crops into a smaller portion of the field of view through the lens. This gives a perceived zoom.
Which DSLR camera should I buy?
Make sure you carefully consider your requirements and ensure you seek out a camera to suit your current and future needs. Whether that is high-resolution stills imaging, a wide dynamic range, or crisp 4K video recording. It is equally important to remember that the range of lens choice is crucially important when choosing any interchangeable lens camera so do take a look at the scope of lenses available for your favorite camera before purchasing it.
How much does a DSLR cost?
The best DSLR cameras in this guide range in price from $600 - $2500 depending on the make and model. Prices are typically falling with the increased popularity and prevalence of mirrorless cameras which means photographers can purchase high quality cameras at a decent price.
What features are important on a DSLR camera?
There are several important features photographers and videographers may want on a DSLR camera. Below are some important features to be aware of when choosing:
- Stills image resolution
- Shooting burst speed (Frames Per Second)
- Dynamic range
- ISO noise handling
- Image sensor size (whether crop-sensor or full-frame)
- Lens compatibility (full-frame lenses are much more expensive)
- 1080p, 4K or 8K video resolution
- Rear screen (whether vari-angle, tilting or fixed)
What is the best DSLR camera for beginners?
The Nikon D5600 is the best beginner DSLR camera and features as the highest-rated DSLR in our best beginner cameras buying guide with four out of five stars. During our full review and testing we were particularly impressed with its quick autofocus and lightweight compact design, despite being a DSLR that was launched in 2016.
How we test the best DSLR cameras
To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best cameras to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every camera through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each camera is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.
Each camera is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each camera and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a 60MP full-frame mirrorless camera to a sleek little crop-sensor DSLR wouldn't be appropriate, though each camera might be the best-performing product in its own class.
We look at how easy each camera is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date imaging technology, whether the cameras can shoot high-quality stills photos and high-resolution video and also suggest if a particular camera would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on cameras, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.